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Scarlet Letter As A Symbol Essay, Research Paper

The Scarlet Letter As a Symbol

Often throughout The Scarlet Letter there are symbolic references made. The story deals with a Puritan woman who commits adultery and raises an illegitimate child named Pearl. The author, Nathanial Hawthorne, uses many religious and natural images to symbolize different points. One of the purposes of this symbolism is to show that Puritanism is hypocritical and that their religious viewpoints are against the natural order, which is done by using contrasting natural and religious symbols in the descriptions of Pearl. Also through out the book, Hawthorne uses the letter as a major symbol.

At the beginning of the story, the letter is a symbol of sin. The sin was adultery. Hester has had relations with man while she had a husband. At the time, she wasn?t aware that her husband was still alive. The evidence of her actions was her daughter, Pearl. For her sentence, Hester would have to wear the letter A and also stand on the scaffolds in the afternoon.

In later chapters, the letter evolves into able. Some years after the beginning of the incident, Hester has tried to move on with her life and has become a big help to her community. She is well liked for her art in sewing, and is also helpful towards the sick and the dying. Most of the townspeople have forgotten what has happened and have accepted Hester for who she is and not what she has done.

The product of Hester?s sin was also a symbol used in the book. Pearl was always a symbol for her sin. She was the evidence that convicted Hester. In one part of the story, Hester and Pearl visit the Governor and Pearl is dressed up in a red dress with gold trim. She was described as resembling the letter on her mother?s chest. Hester character is shown here because by dressing Pearl up to look like the letter, she admits that she is not ashamed of what she has done and what has come out of it.

In the second scaffold scene, a scarlet A appears in the sky above Dimmesdale, Hester, and Pearl. In this scene, the letter actually represents two things. One of them is angel. One of the townsmen has just passed away and they believed that it was his angel overhead. The second symbol is forgiveness. This was the second major scaffold scene and this was when Dimmesdale finally goes on the scaffold for forgiveness. This is the first time that he has openly admitted to have been apart of Hester?s sin.

Throughout the book there are examples of when Pearl has almost some kind of supernatural ability to see things the way that they really are. A child these young with these gifts of perception would definitely have been viewed evil in Puritan society. It was assumed to be some type of witchcraft. This is even more obvious with the observations that she makes. When Pearl questions her mother as to where she came from, the response typically was “the Heavenly Father.” Pearl then proceeds to point at Hester’s scarlet letter and replies that she did not come from the heavenly father. This statement at such a young age reflects that not only does she recognize herself as an evil outcast from the Christians but also somewhat of a heretical statement. These two different conflicting groups of symbols are more than likely nothing more than a resentment of Hawthorn’s Puritan upbringing, but do say a lot about Puritan society.

Hawthorne when writing this book, wanted it to be read on many different levels and is why he used so many symbols. Most of them are easily seen, but many are not. A reader should read this book and then re-read it to see the true power of this literature. Hawthorne is a great writer and it shows in his symbolism.


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